With two first round draft picks in the absolutely stacked 2014 NBA Draft, Boston Celtics fans should be excited to watch NCAA basketball this season. There are a number of talented players projected to be picked, so I have been publishing a monthly college basketball guide to educate fans of the Celtics.
Ten players to track throughout the season were highlighted in November, and in December some of the premiere games to watch were outlined. In January, an updated list of 15 players to follow was published. Earlier this month, I recommended 25 important college games to watch.
The Celtics have fallen in the standings and have the fourth worst record in the league, which means they'd have a 37.7 percent chance at a top three pick if the season ended today.
Boston will also receive the worst of Atlanta or Brooklyn's first round pick. Brooklyn currently holds the 15th pick and Atlanta has the 16th, so the C's would receive the latter.
The college regular season ends on March 9th, so now is the time to learn about these prospects before the fun really starts in March Madness. With an asterisk (*) indicating a scheduling conflict with a Celtics game, here are 20 college games to watch over the course of the next two weeks:
*Mon, Feb 24th: Kansas vs. Oklahoma, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Andrew Wiggins is coming off of one of the finest games of his collegiate career, scoring 21 points on a highly efficient 7-for-12 shooting. However, it'll be key for him to find some consistency against another strong opponent in Oklahoma. Joel Embiid, the projected number one pick, dealt with minor ankle and back injuries earlier this month, but has dominated since returning.
Tue, Feb 25th: Wisconsin (#16) vs. Indiana, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Indiana's Noah Vonleh is a dominant rebounder and has improved his offense throughout the season, but Sam Dekker and Wisconsin have won five-straight games, three of them coming against top 15 opponents.
Wed, Feb 26th: Arizona (#4) vs. California, 9:00 PM, ESPN2
Watch Arizona's athletic freshman combo-forward Aaron Gordon, who is expected to be a top 10 pick because of his stellar defensive potential. He is still underdeveloped offensively, but will fit right in with an up-tempo offense.
Thu, Feb 27th: Indiana vs. Iowa, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Iowa doesn't have any top NBA prospects on their roster, but they are a terrific college team and will be a stout test for Indiana freshman big man Noah Vonleh. It's a shame that the Hoosiers don't utilize their bigs often in their system, because Vonleh deserves to be used more on the high post.
Sat, Mar 1st: Cincinnati (#7) at UConn (#21), 12:00 PM, ESPN
In their last meeting, Cincinnati rallied back to win the game thanks to Sean Kilpatrick's scoring prowess and Justin Jackson's lockdown defense. Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier struggled, scoring only 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Look for him to improve on those numbers.
Sat, Mar 1st: Syracuse (#1) vs. Virginia (#14), 4:00 PM, ESPN
Syracuse's sophomore forward Jerami Grant is blossoming before our eyes, improving his once raw offensive skillset each and every game. Point guard Tyler Ennis has slumped as of late, which explains Syracuse's recent struggles, including two consecutive losses.
*Sat, Mar 1st: Kansas (#8) at Oklahoma State, 9:00 PM, ESPN
You have to watch this game because three potential top-ten picks will be playing: center Joel Embiid and wing Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, and guard Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State. Not to mention that a loss for Oklahoma State could evaporate their hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament.
Mon, Mar 3rd: North Carolina vs. Notre Dame, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Jeff Goodman said it perfectly: "James McAdoo has gone from overrated to underrated." The Tar Heels' junior power forward might not crack the first round, but he's a player worth watching for his solid all-around abilities.
Tue, Mar 4th: Creighton (#11) at Georgetown, 7:00 PM, Fox Sports 1
Creighton's senior small forward Doug McDermott recently passed Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list in men's Division I basketball history. He's one of the savviest players in all of college, and is a sure thing to be a contributor in the NBA.
*Wed, Mar 5th: Duke (#5) at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Jabari Parker is arguably the best freshman scorer in college basketball because of his ability to score both inside and outside, and attack the offensive boards for putbacks. With that said, he should be able to pick apart the anemic Demon Deacons.
Thu, Mar 6th: Michigan State (#13) vs. Iowa (#15), 9:00 PM, ESPN
Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are two players to watch. Harris is a defensive-orientated guard, but is developing his offensive game; Payne does it all, and looks to be one of the safest bigs in the draft.
Thu, Mar 6th: UCLA (#23) at Washington, 9:00 PM, ESPN2
If you'd like to do some scouting on players expected to go in the middle or end of the first round, this is the game to watch. Washington senior guard C.J. Wilcox can score at will and averages 18.6 points this season. On UCLA, there's a duo of players to watch: Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine. It's hard to get a read on Anderson's potential -- he's nicknamed "Slow-Mo" for good reason -- but he's a talented point-forward.
Sat, Mar 8th: Kentucky (#18) at Florida (#2), 12:00 PM, CBS
This could be the game of the day, with four potential first round draft picks playing. On Kentucky, there's Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, and James Young. Randle has drawn double-teams as of late, which has hindered his scoring, but he is still a dominant rebounder. Young is known for his scoring skills, but also contributes with hustle plays and defense. Florida's freshman Chris Walker hasn't been able to carve out significant minutes in the rotation since returning from a suspension, but the potential is still there.
Sat, Mar 8th: UConn (#21) at Louisville (#11), 2:00 PM, CBS
Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith should make for a fun matchup between the point guards, but power forward Montrezl Harrell should be able to have his way inside against UConn.
Sat, Mar 8th: Arizona (#4) at Oregon, 4:00 PM, CBS
Arizona will roll, but Aaron Gordon is well worth your time. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has also been solid since taking over as a starting forward.
Sat, Mar 8th: Michigan (#20) vs. Indiana, 6:00 PM, ESPN
Michigan's sophomore guard Nik Stauskas is more than a three-point specialist; he's athletic, can score off the dribble, and plays better defense than he gets credit for. Also watch Glenn Robinson III, though he has failed to meet expectations this season.
Sat, Mar 8th: Creighton (#11) vs. Providence, 8:00 PM, CBS SN
Doug McDermott, one of the greatest offensive players in NCAA history, will be playing his final regular season game; that's reason enough to tune in.
Sat, Mar 8th: Duke (#5) vs. North Carolina, 9:00 PM, ESPN
Everyone knows about Duke's Jabari Parker, but the player rising on many draft boards is Rodney Hood. It first appeared that he'd be a "3-and-D" wing in the NBA, but he has shown off an impressive in-between game this past month, meaning he could be much more than just a role player.
Sun, Mar 9th: Michigan State (#13) at Ohio State (#24), 4:30 PM, CBS
By now, it's obvious that Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are must-watch players on Michigan State, but the Buckeyes have point guard Aaron Craft and forward LaQuinton Ross, who could both be steals in the early second round.
*Sun, Mar 9th: N.C. State vs. Boston College, 6:00 PM, ESPNU
N.C. State's forward T.J. Warren is a monster, averaging 23.3 points per game in only his sophomore year. He probably won't be a lottery pick, but is guaranteed to be a first round draft pick.
A College Basketball Guide for Boston Celtics Fans: